When Mississippi passed a law requiring school districts to teach sex education, it was a great victory. After all, 76 percent of the state's teenagers report having sex before they graduate from high school, and Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, currently standing at 50 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2011.
But what was supposed to educate and inform teenagers in the state has turned into a big joke. For example, the sex education curriculum in Oxford, Miss., allegedly has students unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and take note how dirty it becomes. It's a disgraceful parallel of comparing a young woman to a piece of candy, to drive home the point that a girl is dirty, unworthy and used if she has sex. This is not the kind of sex education that needs to be taught in our nation's schools.
Right now in Mississippi, the law requires school districts to choose between abstinence-only programs that encourage students to wait until marriage to have sex, or "abstinence-plus" programs that urge abstinence but also teach about contraception. The problem with the "abstinence-plus" program is that although it allows lessons on contraception and STDs, it prohibits students from learning how to use condoms. Teachers are also forbidden to discuss abortion of any kind.
Perhaps the biggest shocker of all: Mississippi sex-ed classes are teaching kids that homosexuality is illegal. Yes, teachers can opt out of pushing this message, but the simple fact that it's part of the curriculum is unbelievable in this day in age. Not only is this wrong for so many obvious reasons, but the fact is homosexuality is not illegal. Not only is Mississippi making a mockery out of teaching sex education to students, it's teaching them bigotry, hatred and discrimination.
Instead of treating students like the young adults they are, teachers are being forced to present this important information as if it's being taught to a group of first graders. Sex education must be taught through objective reality, or the way things really are. Teaching abstinence is a nice thought, but it's also unrealistic. Like it or not, teenagers are going to have sex. Therefore, what we need is comprehensive sex education that teaches kids how to have safe sex.
How do we accomplish this?
1. Stop teaching teenagers that sex is a sin and that it's wrong unless we are married. Stop teaching teens to be ashamed of their sexual desires. This is another far right fabrication the church continues to push, and guess what? It's never worked! The human sex drive is the most powerful force on earth. It's a beautiful, natural phenomenon that produces unparalleled pleasure. Our culture of sexual repression makes America appear naive and immature. Critical thinking says nothing will ever stop the most primal drive that smolders within the human psyche. Nature will always favor this form of expression, no matter how many fanatics threaten us with eternal damnation.
2. Don't make it a Biology lesson: Many sex education courses are weighted down in the biological mechanisms of how the male and female bodies work, how a baby is made and how STDs are spread. No doubt this is important information, but there's way more to it. As author Mark Manson said, "Sex ed should account for the recreational, social and emotional reasons for sex and their consequences. It should discuss the interpersonal meaning of intercourse, setting clear expectations and boundaries, communicating desires, dealing with feelings of shame and awkwardness, and of course, being responsible about protection and privacy."
3. Access to condoms: Our public school systems are still debating whether or not providing condoms in schools promotes sexual promiscuity. Condoms don't promote promiscuity, hormones promote promiscuity! Giving students access to condoms doesn't increase their odds of having sex, it just increases the odds that they'll have safe sex.
4. Identifying as LGBT is perfectly normal. Whether teenagers are straight, gay, transgender or any other orientation, they should be respected and left alone. It's time for America to grow up and recognize that homosexuality is neither a choice nor a disease, any more than being a heterosexual is. We need to push more the message of equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else.
Right now only 22 states mandate sex education courses in public schools. This is embarrassing. It's time to pass legislation that mandates comprehensive sex education in all of our public schools so students aren't forced to learn love making through porn or on the streets. Of course, not sex education like Mississippi that has turned it into a charade, but a world-class program that educates our kids about one of the most beautiful parts of life and helps them make better decisions.